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New immigration rules yield inconsistent results

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In a recent post we discussed a change in immigration policy, under which Washington will halt deportation proceedings against those illegal immigrants who have no criminal record, while at the same time increasing scrutiny of those who pose a criminal threat to the United States. But the stories of two immigrant men who are fighting deportation show that the new guidelines do not always lead to uniform results.

One man has resided in the U.S. for 21 years since he left El Salvador. His criminal record was not without black marks-a few license violations and a drunk driving conviction over 10 years old. But he was upstanding in other areas, paying taxes and child support. He also has been a steadying influence in the lives of his children. The immigration judge who heard his case prevented his deportation because he had reached the important legal threshold of living in the U.S. for at least 10 years and had shown that his children would "suffer extreme harm" if he were sent out of the country.

Another man saw different results. He came to the U.S. 13 years ago and stayed after drug gangs pursued his family in Brazil. He took a position as a deacon and got married. He too paid taxes and in addition possessed a spotless criminal record. But when he was caught speeding, police turned him over to ICE. Because he had not reached the 10 year residency threshold at the time, he could not seek a green card. His request for asylum was denied, and an immigration judge required that he leave the country.

Using the new immigration policy, his lawyers pressed local ICE prosecutors to allow him to remain in the U.S., but ICE denied his request. The lawyers then turned their attention to ICE's Washington office. Only after a newspaper looked into the matter did ICE stay his deportation for one year.

The government has completed a training program on the new policy for all immigration officials and prosecutors. Immigration lawyers say that the training has made a difference, but the cases of these two men illustrate that conformity to the new policy has not been fully achieved.

Source: The Boston Globe, "Justice is variable as US hears immigrants' appeals," Maria Sacchetti, Jan. 16, 2012.

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